Prints and Poems: The Background

[Master Clay and Making Poems] [Tenth Century Invasion] [Brigid's Day] [Winter on his Bride to be Spring a Child ] [Trying to Study Philosophy] [Introit] [Agnus Dei] [Foetus Papypaceous] [Abandoning Studies] [On Church Island] [Tea Party and Dunree Co. Donegal] [The poems of Padraig Fiacc] [Cavehill Winter]

MAKING POEMS are lithographs produced while I was living in Philadelphia
MAKING POEMS deals with the concerns of the poet, ( and sometimes the artist ) who wonders why he tries to make Art. Who listens to his words, who reads them? Like the baskets of straw he feels he is throwing to the waves, my image is one of extreme fragility; a structure of poles and paper ribbons, built at low-tide, to be wrecked by the rising waters. The poet sees himself as a hermit by the shore making his poems like straw baskets. He throws them into the sea where they are devoured by the waves but he lives in hope that appreciation is coming their way from some quarter. "That a sea shell ear hear its bell tone note"
In illustrating the work I choose to create a metaphor for that of the poet. I kept the image of a weaver, but was thinking of the art of artists like Christo whose wrappings of landscape or buildings have a certain length of existence, and like a theatre work, their destruction is part of the complete piece.
MASTER CLAY discusses a time in Fiacc's life, when he entered the Catholic Seminary, lured by childhood memories of birdsong and bells, and found instead, intimations of death and loneliness, rather than the spirituality he sought. In my image the monastery has become a lonely tower where the poet waits for a gathering storm. The rope by which he had climbed to the top is slowly burning closer and closer to the top, leaving him without an escape if he does not soon leave.

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TENTH CENTURY INVASION pictures the scene after raiding Vikings have plundered an Irish Monastery. They have killed the monks, stolen their sacred manuscripts and destroyed the beautiful handwritten books. To Fiacc, the poet, the worst loss of all is a monk’s song in a drowned Bible's margin.

BRIGID’S DAY puzzled me for a long time, because it described a time of year much different from late February when I had been accustomed to celebrate the saint’s day. However, learning that in the USA where Fiacc grew up, the Church celebrate her feast in June put my mind at ease. The image of the little sheep comes from an English Brass-rubbing of the Middle Ages. She seems more comfortable here than under the pointed feet of that sleeping Knight.

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TRYING TO STUDY PHILOSOPHY are also early works by Fiacc. At this time he was writing in a Yeatsian style, drawing heavily on Ireland's Mythic and Monastic past. These short poems are filled with as much stated and inferred imagery as many an epic ballad.

TRYING TO STUDY PHILOSOPHY sees the poet meditating in his lofty Belfast room. Distracted from his work by the song of a Blackbird, its flight drawing his eye across the water, he thinks of the scribes of Bangor’s Monasteries, united to him in faith and purpose. The bird has become a symbol of the connection spanning the centuries.
In my print the bird-bell rises from a monastery window, to skim over Twentieth Century Belfast Lough, with smokestacks rising on its northern shore.
WINTER ON HIS BRIDE TO BE SPRING A CHILD too is like a riddle, and in its resolution we learn of Nature's interconnectedness. Seemingly dead Winter gives life to Spring, and in turn is nourished by her. Here Padraig Fiacc talks about nature and a famous legend from the Celtic tradition in which it is prophesied that a child, still in the womb, will be so beautiful that she will set all Ireland at war. The king, Fionn McCool, has her raised in seclusion and when she is of age she is brought to court to be married to him. However the passage of time while kind to Grainne, the young woman, has left the king an old man. Rather than marry him she appeals to the code of chivalry that binds his knights, and asks one of them, Diarmid, to protect her from this fate by eloping with her. In my picture the face of the old king and by extension the personification of Winter is seen in the snowy landscape, while the profile of Grainne, the sky, is locked into contact with his at the horizon, the runner in the snow, Diarmid becoming his eye in the eternal triangle.
The decorative border illustrates the Spring-Winter link, its roundels showing the bee, the blossom, the Haw-berry and the Robin redbreast.

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INTROIT, AGNUS DEI and FOETUS PAPYPACEOUS were the first prints made during my year as Northern Ireland's Rome Scholar. Attempting to change my imagery from the purely representational to something that came more from within, I sought to build from the symbols in the poetry, rather than from their narrative content. These prints then, while dealing with the North's violence and conflicts, try to avoid clichéd journalistic images, hopefully adding to the power of the poetry when read together.
INTROIT gives us the reactions of neighbors and soldiers in the moment before a bomb goes off under a gas storage facility, not knowing what it may do to them or the area.
AGNUS DEI sees a father taking his daughter to school in grimy, industrial bombed-out Belfast, wondering if she can forgive him for making her grow up in this environment.
FOETUS PAPYPACEOUS looks at the Protestant and Catholic communities, trapped in enmity by history and prejudice, but similar in so many ways. Fiacc shows how the violence became part of the environment to Belfast’s inhabitants, and says how they have come to accept it with resignation as one does the weather.

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ABANDONING STUDIES is another early poem, which offers a similar theme to that of Making Poems; the futility of all man's efforts at making a permanent mark on this world. I try to hint at this questioning tone in the stream of bubbles or eggs coming from the salmon.
There are two versions of this image, a small color lino-cut, and a larger silkscreen print. The linoleum print was made as an attempt to show where I intended to go with the rest of the poems if I was awarded the Rome Prize.

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Those interested in the work of Padraic Fiacc may be able to read more of his poetry in some of the anthologies of Irish Verse currently available. The Faber collection of Modern Irish Poetry, is one place to look.
Mr. Fiacc's publishers in Ireland are The Blackstaff Press, who may be contacted at;
3 Galway Park, Dundonald, Belfast BT16 OAN, Northern Ireland.

The following books were listed at or may be available through an enterprising non-cyber bookseller.

Ruined Pages
Paperback - 184 pages (15 April, 1994)
The Blackstaff Press Ltd; ISBN: 0856405299

Woe to the Boy
( 5 May, 1994)
Lapwing Publications; ISBN: 1898472084

Red Earth
Paperback Lagan Press; ISBN: 1873687907

You can get in contact with me through any of the following methods
SEAMUS CARMICHAEL , 212 East Grant Street, Lebanon, PA, 17042
(717) 272-0929

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